It seems like every movie with teen girls and dark humor invokes Heathers. Heathers came out in 1988, and it was shocking and perfect for the time. It captured, as nothing before it had, the cynicism of students, the toothless administrators, and the deep emotional cruelty of teen girls. Veronica’s crush on the dangerous new boy in town resonated with young women, and they were empowered by her rejection of him when he went too far.
Thoroughbreds is not Heathers. It’s something more. It’s quiet. It’s slow moving. There is touch of snark, but mostly it’s expansive and slightly skewed, like the main characters.
Amanda (Olivia Cooke of Bates Motel) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy of The Witch) are cool, detached teens from well-off families. Amanda has recently accepted that she feels nothing. She has spent her life mimicking emotions, but she’s lost any compunction of hiding her odd behavior. Lily projects the image of a perfect student and young woman, while hiding what lies beneath her facade. Amanda catches Lily in a lie early on, and there is the sense that she sees the mask Lily wears, and accepts it.
Amanda and Lily become companions, but whether they are friends is a deeper question. This is not the “frenemy” dynamic of Heathers. Amanda and Lily challenge each other, even insult one another, but they aren’t especially mean-spirited. Though they both have only superficial interactions with the outside world, their connection brings them back to each other.
Amanda and Lily loop Tim (Anton Yelchin) into their schemes. Tim is a man with a police record and big dreams, but the girls quickly point out that he’ll always be an outsider, even with money. Tim’s diminishing agency is palpable, faced with the two teens. That they aren’t malicious about it makes their dismissal of him even more chilling.
The movie meanders through intimate and stark settings, keeping things off kilter. Amanda and Lily aren’t able to settle either, until a denouement that leaves them connected and is terrifying in its implications.
Thoroughbreds doesn’t purport to show the truth of all teen girls. It’s focused on two who find each other during a pivotal moment in their lives. Watching them teeter, waiting for them to tip, will leave you breathless.